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Is Transracial Adoption Right for Everyone?

I think there are so many profound implications relating to transracial adoption, including cultural, theological, societal and certainly familial. Still the question remains -- is transracial and transethnic adoption right for everyone, or should it be?

A friend of mine who is an adoption professional recently sent me this news report:

ITALIAN COURT RULES PARENTS CANNOT SPECIFY CHILD’S RACE IN ADOPTION

Prospective adoptive parents in Italy should not be allowed to request children of a certain race or ethnicity, according to a ruling by the country’s highest appeals court. The decision was reported in a June 3rd article by Erin Bock (“Italy High Court Rules Adoptive Couples Cannot Request Children Based on Race, Ethnicity”) on jurist.org. Instigated by a couple who only wanted to adopt a white child of European descent, the case prompted the court not only to recommend the denial of the parents’ application to adopt, but also called the parents “discriminatory” and recommended they receive social services and psychological support.

As the father of four children (all of whom were adopted and all of whom are Hispanic) and friend to more transracially-adopted (and transethnically-adopted) families than I can count, this report really got me to thinking.  Make no mistake, I support transracial and transethnic adoption for so many reasons – not just because it involves my family.  I think there are so many profound implications relating to transracial adoption, including cultural, theological, societal and certainly familial.  I may offer some of my thoughts on this subject in the coming weeks, not to debate or try to persuade but simply to process them out loud, so to speak, and hopefully create an engaging dialog. 

But for now, I want to pose a few questions that came to my mind – and I hope that you will offer your thoughts.  Is this new Italian court ruling a “good” one?  Is it a policy that you would want to see instituted here in the U.S.?  Essentially, is transracial and transethnic adoption right for everyone, or should it be?  Let me know what you think.

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14 Comments

  1. I don’t think the law is probably not a very good one. I think this, primarily, because I believe transethnic adoption is not for everyone.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I think transethnic adoption is wonderful, and is probably something that all Christians should consider. But, I also think that it is a very meaty concept, something many people who are still on theological (and ethnic) milk-teaching cannot handle properly. It takes someone with a particular level of mature thinking on the subject to pursue this calling well.

    For those who cannot embrace ethnic diversity fully within their family (or church) and proclaim it in a God-honoring way, they should stick to adopting within their own ethnicity. Then, a child is still cared for, but not harmed due to their parents’ beliefs.

  2. I’m led to wonder just how diverse and culturally accepting Italy is… If racism is very rare, even out in the most remote areas, then there’s probably no reason beyond parental preference for wanting a white child. Making ‘parental preference’ outright illegal strikes me as a bit over-the-top but, eh, best interests of the child and all that, it’s somewhat understandable.

    Such a law in America, though? I know it’s not the case *everywhere* but there’s still plenty of mostly white, mostly racist communities. I live in such a community right now and i’d consider it borderline child abuse to adopt an African-American or Hispanic child here. Even in mostly-white but non-racial communities i’ve heard of transracial adoptees describing feeling extremely out of place with nobody around who shares their birth cultures. Which isn’t to say i think children should always be placed in a community which ‘looks like’ them but i do think parents should have the right to use their own discretion in figuring out whether a child of a particular race will be accepted in the community.

  3. Wow – this is a tough subject. I was adopted at birth into a caucasian family and I am caucasian, fortunately for me. I say that because my hometown is very small and only .5% of the population is of color. After adopting my daughter from China we moved back to that small town – for 6 months. (The attitudes of most of the people that live there haven’t changed since the 1800′s.) Those were a long 6 months and soon after we moved to a suburb of a larger city to be where it is more ethnically diverse. And have since adopted a son from Guatemala.

    I would love to agree with the Italian law, but it isn’t that easy.

  4. Is this ruling a “good one”? Not by any means, I believe we are “called” to adoption. In that calling the Lord usually makes it very clear where we are to serve and be served in the process of adoption. All that to say, I believe transracial or transethnic adoption is not for everyone.

  5. I have to disagree with Italy’s new law. The last thing you would want for any parent or child is to place a child into a family that did not feel ready to handle a special situation, whether it be racial differences, special needs, etc.

    Thankfully our adoption agency (Bethany Christian Services) asked the tough questions and challenged us to consider life years beyond the adoption, such as how we would feel if our child was not accepted as a future mate by family friends, classmates, etc. They also had us read a book (Dim Sum, Bagels & Grits, I believe.)

    We decided it would be easier for all of us if we adopted a child of the same race. And since I had already visited Russia on a missions trip, we chose that country.

    Every child deserves a family, not necessarily of the same race. But just as I applaud those who cross racial lines, I also respect those of us who are honest about our (lack of) ability to be that family.

  6. As the white mother of an African-American child, I definitely come down in favor of transracial/transcultural adoption. Still, this decision is a precarious one. My concern is for the children, first and foremost. I would hope that people who have a serious problem with their ability to handle a transracial family will instead choose not to adopt, if the alternative is raising a child who will be mistreated because of his or her racial identity. That thought makes me so sad.

    On the other hand, what if this ruling forces people to acknowledge/face their fears and really examine their beliefs about crossing racial lines on an introspective level?

    Well to be perfectly honest, I’m on the fence about this. While I don’t think anyone should be forced to take on a role or responsibility they do not feel they can handle, I do think more families need to start thinking about their reasons behind rejecting a child solely on the basis of race. According to to a 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 40% of children adopted domestically and internationally by Americans are a different race or culture from their adoptive parents. That’s actually quite a large percentage if you think about it.

    This is one of those issues that will never be completely settles because it’s just so controversial. I guess I just wish more people would/could consider opening their minds. Part of me wonders if maybe this ruling is a step in that direction?

    I recently read a quote from Robert Dale Morrison1, another transracially adoptive parent. “The quickest cure for racism would be to have everyone in the country adopt a child of another race. No matter what your beliefs,when you hold a four-day-old infant, love him, and care for him, you don’t see skin color, you see a little person that is very much in need of your love.”

    Indeed, every child does deserve a home and a family.

    Melba

  7. When I read this question, I didn’t think about the issue of racism or racial tension. The first thought that came to my mind was how wonderful it would be for a Hispanic family here in the US to choose to adopt a child from Guatemala or Honduras. I thought about the many foster children I work with everyday who LONG for forever families that could share their cultural experience. Of course I believe that any family can make efforts to help a child investigate and retain their cultural heritage, but families who share in that heritage (or have similar experiences) can offer even richer life experiences. I would not balk at an African American family for adopting within their race, nor any other race for that matter. I would probably assume they had the child’s best interest and cultural needs at heart. But who knows? I’m kind of an optimist :)

  8. Adoption is already a HUGE decision and process for families. To force a family then to HAVE to have a transracial child may be too much for some. My heart would love to it not to matter but to some it does and we can’t force them into it. To do a law like Italy is doing will only likely reduce the number of kids being adopted.

  9. I have to go in favor of being able to have some specifications in choices when adopting.
    -What about age? Why not say you have to open to any age? Why only in favor of babies (which is the norm)
    -Gender. Many don’t care, but my family is going to be specific in our request. Many disagree with this, which is fine. But it is right for our family.
    -Drug use? Should we be open to any of that? It is still a baby that needs a home
    -Special needs? (see above), these babies are the most likely to not be adopted. They need it more than anyone!

    Different parts of adoption come with various challenges. Only the parents who have looked int their hearts and really thought about it, can really know what they’re up for. Those that are up for any/all challenges, I think that’s great!

    But I hate to think of a baby or child going into a home where any part of them was not cherished.

  10. To make things short, I agree with most all commenter’s that this law is not a good thing. Adoption is a huge decision and should not be made more difficult than needed by the courts. Also, my wife and I are in the process of adopting and while we are white, we actually requested a black child, partially due to the need and where we feel we are being called. Finally, if a parent cannot specify what they feel comfortable with, when would they find out the ethnicity? At some point they have to find out, and at what if they said no to the child then and wasted all of the case workers’ time. Just a couple of off the cuff thoughts on the subject.

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  12. I read the comment above and it asked about how diverse and culturally accepting Italy is, having lived in Italy for 3 years I can tell you – it’s not anymore accepting than the US is. Northern Italians and Southern Italians do not get along and have some very inappropriate names for one another. It is easy to tell where a person is from, from the dialect they speak and there is a lot of prejudice.

    In the end this law will hurt the kids. Less people will adopt because of it. We can hope and pray that it helps people get over any prejudices… after all, think of the child you’ve adopted, that you love. Consider if he were a different ethnicity. Would you love him less? Would you say “never mind, I don’t want her?” Probably not. But once they are in your arms it is much easier to realize ethnicity really doesn’t matter so much.

  13. Let me first state my wife and I adopted two girls from China. Quite honeslty we respect their heritage and discuss it with them, but we rarely think about the transracial aspect. When we made the decision to adopt from China it was simply what God put on our hearts. We had some call us racist and some ask why we did not adopt a U.S. child (all wounderful options), but God simply put on our heart two Chinese children. If the Government stepped in our path like this, I think we might not have adopted because of the government interference. I praise God we did adopt two from China, yet I am also highly thankful we could make the choise.

  14. Two thoughts stick out in my mind
    First, it is a tricky thing for a government to legislate the non-mandatory adoption of children in need. The government might consider such a policy a ‘win’ for diversity principles, but I fear it would be a ‘lose’ for children. If adoptive parents are made to feel uncomfortable with their preferences, they might elect to avoid the process altogether. Risk is an already present deterrent in the process. I imagine many families would view such a policy as an increase in that risk.

    Second, while I am a supporter of diverse communities, I fear support for such a policy would demonstrate a willingness to abdicate our responsibility in transforming our own communities. To say that the government has the power to enact policy is different than saying it is prudent. Some change, one might argue most change, is most powerfully initiated through cultural forces, not the legislature.

    Trans-racial relationships are meaningful because they are difficult. The tensions between ethnicities, religions, nationalities, etc., are genuine and well-deserved. Disregarding them with a swoop of the pen does not enrich us, rather it diminishes us.